Our history, our 'reki-shi'
It is possible to trace the origins of our company all the way back to 1615 when Sumitomo was founded. Just to put that into context, Lloyd's of London was founded in 1688 some 73 years later.
Some historians have suggested that Sumitomo is the oldest recorded business to have been formed anywhere in the world.
Early principles
The founding father was called Masatomo Sumitomo who opened a book and medicine shop in Kyoto. The early principles of the company still hold true today.

Never to undertake business half-heartedly and to go about their activites with diligence, mindfulness and sincere intention.


Sumitomo business should benefit the country and the community as well as Sumitomo.


Mitsui was founded in 1673 by Mitsui Takatoshi, the son of a sake brewer, who opened a number of kimono shops in Kyoto and Edo which today is known as Tokyo. Mitsui was a visionary and was the first recorded person to sell the kimonos 'off the shelf' at affordable prices for the masses. Until Mitsui opened his doors, kimonos were reserved for the very wealthy customers as they were all made-to-measure. He is credited in the history books as being the first trader to use marketing techniques such as handing out flyers and offering potential customers the use of branded umbrellas on rainy days.

The success of these and subsequent shops allowed him to expand into money lending and other financial services. Starting in 1691, members of the Mitsui family were designated chartered merchants (goy? sh?nin) by the shogunate. These appointments were lucrative for Mitsui and gave it considerable influence in the government. The cultivation of close ties with the government became a great asset to Mitsui, especially during the Meiji period (1868-1912), when the government was encouraging rapid economic development.


Masatomo Sumitomo's wealth came from copper. His brother-in-law, Riemon Soga, developed an intricate and complicated smelting process that extracted tiny silver particles from the copper. Prior to this, copper was simply exported with the valuable silver content still inside. The process was called 'Nanban-buki' translated as 'Western Refining'.

Tomomochi Sumitomo, the eldest son of Riemon, who became a family member of the House of Sumitomo by marrying a daughter of Masatomo, extended the business to Osaka and disclosed the "Nanban-buki" technology to other copper smelters. Sumitomo thus came to be looked up to as the "head family of Nanban-buki" and Osaka subsequently took the lead in the copper refining industry in Japan.

During the Edo Period, Japan was one of the world's leading copper producing countries. Starting from the copper trade, Sumitomo went on to become a trader in thread, textiles, sugar and medicine, and prospered to the point where it was said that "No one in Osaka can compete with Sumitomo."

Sumitomo then went into the copper mining business and opened the Besshi Copper Mines in 1691. The Besshi Copper Mines continued operations for 283 years, forming the backbone of Sumitomo's business. During its lifetime the mine produced more than 650,000 tons of copper.

Sumitomo is an environmentally friendly company and when the mine closed in the 1970s they replanted the forest, returning it to its natural beauty.

Besshi Mine as seen when it closed before reforestation

Besshi Mine replaced by an area of outstanding beauty

Notable Dates

Mitsui Bank was formed

The Sumitomo Marine & Fire Insurance. Co., Ltd was formed - The Group's first entrance into insurance

Sumitomo Bank was formed

Sumitomo Marine and Mitsui Marine merged to become Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance

Mitsui Sumitomo integrated with Aioi Nissay Dowa to form the MS&AD Group